A new monthly columnist has joined the JEU team - Armin Langer - a graduate student of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam and founder and coordinator of the Jewish-Muslim activist group Salaam-Shalom. His first book "Ein Jude in Neukölln" (A Jew from the No-go-Zone) was published in 2016.
Who are you?
I’m Armin, activist, author and student. And I like to bake.
Where are you from, and which place do you call home right now?
I was born in Germany, grew up in Austria and Hungary, studied in Budapest and Jerusalem - in 2013 I returned to Germany. Since then I’ve been living in Berlin which eventually became my home.
How did you find yourself on the Rabbinical path?
I’ve been always interested in religion, interpreting olds texts for new circumstances. I was raised in an atheist household - the first book I bought with my own pocket money savings was a Bible. Later on, after I’ve moved to Budapest which is a city with a vibrant Jewish community life, I got involved not only as a learner but also as a teacher and I wanted to bring this passion to a professional level.
How do you see your role within your community and the wider society?
I consider myself a Jewish activist or a socially engaged Jew. I never deny my Jewish origins, on the contrary, I gave my newest book the title “A Jew in the No-go-Zone” although I’m much more than “just a Jew”. But I want to emphasize that a Jewish presence in Berlin or generally in Europe is the new norm. We are part of our European societies and we have the possibility to engage in European political processes.
What is your view of the European Jewish present?
I see that in many European Jewish communities Jewish identity is defined through remembering the Shoah, being aware of anti-Semitism and supporting the State of Israel’s identity politics. As if Jewish life in Europe wouldn’t be possible: But it is!
Dafke - despite all challenges, Judaism has much more to offer than an eternal fellowship of victimhood.
And what about the future?
We have to prove that despite the omnipresence of anti-Semitism in all layers of society, Jews are home in Europe, home in Exile. Most of Judaism’s intellectual achievements are connected to this continent and this should be continued. Also, for the first time in history we live in an European environment that doesn’t oppress us for being “other”, on the contrary, we are embraced. I personally use these new privileges to promote a political emancipation for all minorities on the continent, and to promote the image of the socially engaged European Jew.
Thoughts on multiculturalism in Europe?
We know the soul of the strangers because we were strangers in Europe. Our official acceptance to European society has been entirely fulfilled only following the horrors of the Shoah - and on an unofficial level there is still much hatred going on against members of our communities. In my opinion, this official acceptance to society gives as the possibility to engage for members of other minorities who are not even regarded on an official level as part of the European body. We could be the bridge between whites and non-whites, born-Europeans and migrants, people from Christian or Christo-normative and Islamic or Islamo-normative countries.
Favourite Jewish read?
The Talmud. Go and study it! You will be surprised how exciting - and how relevant - the texts can be. However, my image of Judaism is not only influenced by the Rabbis, also by many modern intellectuals like Hannah Arendt, Talal Asad, Daniel Boyarin, Shlomo Sand or Jean-Paul Sartre